It’s Finally Happened

Just as I knew it would, mind you.

A friend of mine – and this is independent of our friendship, so just don’t – has been diagnosed with PTSD.

From dating.

While what I call Gay Kulture continues to poo-poo my observations of how we enable this lousy behaviors as I stand by and warn that they’re disabling emotionally normal people.

Well, like I said…I did see it coming. Which also means that I get to use this gif:

Further, I’d go one step further and say the only thing that makes this diagnosis unique is that gay men are too narcissistic or oblivious to admit that therapy would do them good.

Collectively, I think gay men delude themselves into believing that as long as they look good, nothing is wrong.

Six pack abs? ✔️

Trendy haircut? ✔️

Sexy undies? ✔️

Yeah. It’ll all be ok, as long as you’re on PrEP. But no one checks in on their mental health and brags about keeping the psyche in shape. At least, it doesn’t happen nearly enough.

You know what takes strength?

Confronting your demons or being healthy enough to stand your ground when confronted with someone else’s. Traditionally, I think gays consider happy hour and indiscriminate sex all the therapy and validation they need.

It’s not.

And this is where that leads.

This PTSD wasn’t due to domestic or physical abuse, and I don’t want to go into specific details, obviously. Rather, this particular diagnosis was the result of someone I armchair diagnosed as a covert narcissist just bailing on their live-in relationship with my friend and then blaming the victim instead of taking accountability for his own shit behaviors.

It was galling to observe, I can’t imagine what it was like to actually endure.

And the result is PTSD. That seems like a pretty high price to pay just for opening oneself up to the potential for love.

My default explanation for the maturity deficiencies in my culture is usually AIDS. While I think there’s definitely a contributing factor argument, I also think it is only that: a contributing factor.

Sure, younger generations of gays are exponentially more “confident” than older gays were at that age. But confidence does not equate to emotional competence. And that’s what we’re dealing with here is an incompetence.

I love the simplicity of stating “That’s not ok” when I see an example of bad behavior. What surprises me about that is how eager other people are to defend the subject of the observation.

“Oh, that’s not what they meant” or “You’re being too hard on them” are common responses to my call out.

I don’t know what they meant their actions to communicate, nor do I think my friends do when they come to someone’s defense.

But it happens.

Every damn time.

Why?

While I find it interesting that there’s a behavioral correlation to Trump supporters’ defense of their pride and joy PoS leader, I don’t think it’s the same motivation. With Trump supporters, I think they vote for and defend the symbol of the behaviors they themselves want to be able to get away with.

With gays, I think it’s a different motivator.

My gut says it’s fear. But of what?

Some sort of Homo FOMO?

Probably. With a side of the American Dream.

We all want what we want, and we certainly don’t want someone else to have something we don’t. That competitive selfishness makes us pursue things – including people – at all costs. This without thinking about the collateral costs – again, including people.

It’s so destructive. Not just to the self, but to anyone in this Greed Splash Zone.

So, here we are.

It’s time for people to stand up and start saying enough. Out loud. Because people can’t be fixed with a meme…and I think these Life In The Time Of COVID days we’re living in is a good time to start.

Hell, to end on a really sad note, with restaurants and bars being forced to close and gyms and movie theaters closing down voluntarily to protect us from our idiot selves, you’d think maybe, just maybe Grindr would have self policed and shut down.

Nope.

So, on top of we’re all gonna die from COVID, now we’ve got to damage each other on the way out.

It’s Finally Happened

Lemme Fix This For You…

Here’s a shituation – and you can feel free to call this “being judge-y”. I don’t care, I’m making a point. Personally, I prefer to call this an observation. Since it’s also an accurate observation, people will see it for the indictment that it is.

Hopefully.

I was scrolling through the notties on the asocial media this morning whilst being lazy in bed and came across this gem. A real stand out in a bumper crop of guys exemplifying how gays have gone from fabulous to frivolous in just a couple of generations.

But on Grindr, all you really need to have in order to set yourself apart from that group is a face pic.

Or a shirt.

Either way – pretty low bar.

Here’s the profile:

This guy needed to be slapped or shaken as a child. Maybe if he’d had a mildly traumatizing childhood, he wouldn’t have grown up to fetishize those things – assuming that when he says “wild” in his profile, he’s talking about kink. And his Instagram confirms he lives in Portland, so I’m assuming kink is a given.

Actually, there’s just a lot of people here who came to Portland, didn’t get it, can’t afford to leave on a PT barista income and are using kink to just feel something besides their oppressive existential gloom.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

Don’t worry, I’m not going all the way back to the beginning beginning – reading regulars will already know my take on open marriages.

Synopsis: you’re with the wrong person.

Everthemess, here’s this guy imploring potential suitors – if you can call them that, since the best case with this guy is missing out completely an orgasm – that they be exciting.

I’m unreasonably excited that he at least said “please”. Albeit in a totally lazy manner. Thankfully, he didn’t bore me with a pithy “Plz”…there is a difference.

No, the beginning I’m going back to is actually only as far away as that headline.

More specifically, the follow up.

Pls be exciting

If you follow that up with “Happily married”, I’m left with little choice but to call BS.

Here…

Crappily married

I fixed it.

Pls be exciting + happily married = you don’t understand the core concept.

I’m not even going to parse out how the words “fit” and “tummies” don’t actually belong in the same sentence. Well, ok…but I’m only sparing him one thought there:

This guy put the “moron” in oxymoron.

I’ve stopped trying to understand the avalanche of people in open relationships. It’s beyond my capabilities to help.

However, what I’m left with is the shock and amusement that these people think they can do better. I mean, seriously…you trapped tricked one person into a relationship, that already seems like a lot for you. Now you think you deserve random hookups, too?

I’m just gonna say it, those random hookup? Well, that’s the best you deserved. But this is America, by all means expect more, you Montessori level Stupid American.

There’s an old saying, “Boring people get bored”. Sweetie, if you need exciting people around to be excited, well…

At the same time, since I’ve visited the Instagram you linked in your profile, let’s talk about that. You took a trip to Thailand in December with your husband. That certainly seems like what some people would consider a “trip of a lifetime” – not to mention exciting.

Yet, here you are, hand out for more.

I hope you don’t mind my saying you are a bit more physically attractive than your spouse.

Couple years younger, too?

I’ll go out on a limb and assume he paid for the trip.

As well as your gym membership to some douche-level gym. You’re not coming across as someone who’d be satisfied with a pedestrian level gym like 24 Hour or LA Fitness.

So boring, those gyms.

As I’m assuming your spouse must be. If you’re looking for exciting – I’m assuming it’s not as an escape to all the excitement of your home life.

But, well…I guess my earlier synopsis covered that. Leaving us to riddle out how you failed to grasp the core concept behind the phrase “happily married”.

Unless

Are you defining happiness as having some rube provide you with the foundational levels of Maslow’s pyramid?

My guess is that’s the elephant in the bedroom. That awkward time of the week (for his sake, I hope getting a little unenthusiastic weekly sex from his future ex is the return on his investment in you) where you’ve gotta “pay rent” to the guy who probably does love you and demonstrates it by making sure your physiological and safety layers are solid.

Leaving you to shuffle uncomfortably from one foot to the other when confronted with level three. Hoping your asocial media trolling drops someone hot enough exciting in your lap.

If it happens, I’m sure the three of you (you, your exciting person and your community property divorce settlement) will all be very happy together…until you realize that your top tiers of esteem and self-actualization were just bastardizations of pride and unnecessary levels of physical fitness built of someone else’s projection of love and belonging on to you.

Then you’ve got to hope your landing from the fall from that top tier isn’t too devastating for you to start over at the third level again.

Hopefully, that’s an exciting challenge for you, Sugar.

It’s certainly not exciting at all to observe. It’s depressing as all get out, to be completely honest.

I’ve lived both sides of the scenario this guy is embracing – well, not the delusional crappily married part, so I guess I started out a little better prepared than him – and you know what? I’ll take my occasional ennui over his absent excitement any day.

Either you know why, or you don’t. There’s really no explaining it to people who don’t get it – kind of like trying to reason with Trump supporters at this point. If they still support him, it’s absent of reason.

But I still get out of bed each day hoping there are enough people who understand that not getting it isn’t the first step in the journey; knowing that you probably don’t even know you aren’t getting it is step one.

Those people are exciting!

Lemme Fix This For You…

A Study In Opposites

That’s what I am.

Somewhere today, I got a wild hair to start cleaning up my Instagram. I had noticed a few days ago that my follow to followers ratio was about 3:1.

I wouldn’t say that bothered me, per se, but I did wonder what that imbalance provided me.

Entertainment.

Giving it a very little bit more thought, I added a qualifier or two.

Minimal and prurient.

I was able to admit that I got nothing out of this but minimal entertainment watching strangers’ stories and pics as I mindlessly scroll my free time away. Sometimes that entertainment is minimally thrilling, too, as several of the folks I followed were prone to what I like to call soft core selfie-porn.

A lot of this was obviously one-sided, too…remember that 3:1 ratio?

There were also random or aspirational restaurants that I hadn’t gone to in over three years.

Some had closed.

There were people I chatted with on asocial media back during my 2018 writing challenge that led to Dating Into Oblivion. Some of these pages had zero posts, and only ever posted story videos.

A couple of the empty pages had thousands of followers, too. Thousands of followers without a single post?

Yeah…hi, comrades.

A few of the pages I deleted hadn’t posted in years. I knew some of them and wondered if the attention they put into their pages shifted to relationships.

There were a couple of friends that I knew had died. I just couldn’t delete their pages. Is that nuts?

So, what’s the opposite?

I’m doing this as I am actively adding friends on the Facebook. Last year, I started weaning myself off of my Facebook habit. When I wasn’t driving, I had lots of free time during my public transit commute to spend mindlessly scrolling through social media.

Now that I’m driving and notably not commuting to or from work, I wanted to put a little discipline into that scrolling habit.

But ever since mid-December, I’m adding friends on Facebook. Some are friends of friends. Others are guys I had texted with after hitting it off on asocial media. One worked at a bar that suddenly shut down a couple years back. Still others were just cute.

Shoot me, ok? I’m a guy.

But the real standout was a guy that currently works somewhere I worked three or four years ago.

Four. It was four years ago.

What truly set him apart was that I’d given him a ride in my car! I had picked him up from a something-con at the convention center a few months back.

He granted my friend request and then began chatting with me on Messenger.

Our conversation was catch up stuff on the random crossovers in our lives.

Then some strange things began dropping into the conversation.

How old are you, hon?

And “hon” had company like “dear” and “sweetness”…which in chat is a little hard to interpret.

So, I just flat out ask the question.

Are you flirting with me?

Too many denials followed. Enough that I was left feeling both undesirable and dubious about their veracity.

A couple days later he drops in that he has a date.

I mentioned that ~36 hours after clearing up his disinterest in me was a little too soon to begin parading a date with someone else into the conversation. He apologized. Then mentioned he had a follow up date the next day.

So wait…you’re going on a first date on Christmas Eve and already scheduled a follow-up for the next day? What if you don’t like him?

“Oh, that’s what the second date is for! We’re doubling with my bestie – I won’t know if I like him until my best friend meets him.”

Wow. Don’t give away all of your decision making power there, Sparky.

I also thought, what a junior high level dating mistake. That thought just kind of faded into the mist of my memory since I had no further contact with him. I actually began to wonder if he’d unfriended me.

I popped over to his page and the very top post – from just a few hours before – was “In A Relationship With”.

It had been a week since their first date. And he lives an hour south of town.

Kids.

Outside of this post, I kept my thoughts to myself. But each of the red flags he’d bemoaned during our chats was now being waved in celebration…

The bestie must have really liked him.

But as the realization and acknowledgment of my – oh, hell – inconsistent behaviors settled in, i consoles myself with the knowledge that at least on the Facebook it’s a mutual decision. With Instagram, you can pretty much follow whoever strikes your fancy. That’s the allure, Insta is more entertainment than actual friendship.

At least my list building is mutual.

And in the other hand…

I’m down to about a 2:1 ratio on Instagram. So, there’s that.

A Study In Opposites

Well, That Was A Surprise

You know, when I tapped out my quick observational post yesterday about misspellings and malapropisms, I really didn’t expect much to come of it.

~150 words

~400 followers

It just didn’t seem like anything more than therapeutic whining into the web on my part. And it’s not like I’ve ever expected AtLeastIHaveAFrigginGlass to have a viral moment. My readers read me for what I assume is either entertainment or cautionary tale on their part.

Plus, I’m not a millennial. In my day, having a viral moment could have killed me. Still might, thanks to anti-vaxxers.

True to the norm of my form, I got a few likes, some comments here on WordPress and a few of the same over on my blog’s lil Facebook page. I guess it was the range of the comments that struck me; topical and emotional range.

Frustration.

Location.

I mean, this was just a couple careless and unguarded moments of intelligence fail.

But then I also got texts.

Friends telling me they know they need to proof their texts now before sending them – one called out specifically before sending them to me – or reminding me that I know that they know that they don’t proofread their texts. Hell, my best friend and I have that conversation in some way, shape or form weekly – it’s not like it’s a deal breaker for our friendship, it’s more a source of amusement.

FYI, for his part, the Silver Fox tried to guess who the “ethnically” challenged person was.

But I felt like some comments were a reminder of where I was way back when my friends first started calling me out for my grumpiness. I hashtagged my post with #StupidAmericans because that’s the theme it fit. I remember how…angry I used to get about the embarrassingly stupid things I would observe people doing in their daily lives. Maybe not so much angry as just so surprised that I had a physical as well as emotional reaction to the situation.

It would almost always fade to a sad, shocked amusement at the state of intellect in America. Now I think my observational reaction is more resigned.

Yup. Still dumb.

Without investing too much effort into quantifying whether our trajectory is toward more or less dumb or maybe even holding a steady level of stupid.

C’mon, though…more stupid is clearly the correct assumption here.

Take it from Antoine.

I think – other than defensiveness, and you know who you are! – that the responses that were loudest involved overcompensated people in the workplace. Hell, there was enough material about workplace nincompoops to take the qualifier out of that and just call them People Who Are Shockingly Holding Down A Job.

What do we expect, though?

I saw a text this morning that was something to the effect of:

People today will never know the terror of printing out directions from MapQuest and then making a wrong turn, “Too bad, now you’re lost forever!”

It’s true, too. When we miss a turn in our Nav apps, it reroutes us without even telling us we missed it.

I joke with The Fox often that I don’t need a brain, I have a phone.

Occasionally, I’m surprised to find myself in a situation where I’m discussing something with a group of friends and realize that we are collectively trying to reason something out or recall a fact. More surprising than collaborating on the answer is that none of us reaches for our phones to get the answer.

I actually enjoy those moments. There aren’t enough of them – they also give me hope.

Aside from technology dumbing us down, there’s the foundational effect of our country’s family erosion.

Kids aren’t raised by a parent anymore, well…not actively raised. Let alone raised by a co-habitating (I know, not a word!) set of parents. I think most parents get through the day with a silent prayer that their kid remained self-guided for the duration of their workday. When they interact, it’s more as friends or equals – a parenting flaw of convenience for the parent.

I mention that because I used to watch my sister and brother-in-law parent their son and talk to him like an adult to elevate his thought process and social skills. Now, I think parents talk to their kids like friends or peers in order to be the cool mom or reach backward for relevance so their kids can help keep them remain cool.

I remember seeing an Albert Finney movie once, just a story about growing up. One of his daughters is talking to him about their relationship and he says something like, “I never really thought of you kids as children”.

She asks what he considered them and he replied matter of factly, “Pets”.

I was amused by that situation, but never thought of a future where that would be the high water mark for quality parenting.

At least the master/pet relationship has a hierarchy. Sure, in my own, Myrtle is the Alpha…but there’s still rules and consequences. And when she does something wrong, she knows it was wrong. It’s written all over her smug little cat mug.

School is government funded daycare.

Teachers don’t teach anymore. They are still way under compensated for what they endure, managing to somehow come out of the worst professional situations still sane after playing relationship counselor between parents and kids at best and defense against a united parent/child front at worst.

United in denial, by the way.

Because more often than not in school, we aren’t learning English and grammar or math and science…and most certainly not cursive.

We’re learning how to get away with things and what to do when we fail to get away with something.

That what to do part? Form an alliance with our parent – by manipulating them – against the teacher. Getting busted is as much an indictment of ones parent as it is an inconvenience to the student. It seems parents respond emotionally to that inconvenience with anger toward the teacher for interrupting their day versus disappointment in their offspring.

How can that system manufacture humans who are prepared to face the world armed with a baseline knowledge of the proper use of there/their/they’re let alone be productive members of a world culture.

Have you ever asked yourself whether the apps we use make life better or easier?

I think there is an absolute difference.

Take mating apps disguised as dating apps – because they are such an easy target, sure – as a perfect example. Getting sex has become easier, because it’s now a la carte.

Some people go into the app looking for sex exclusively.

Shooting fish in the proverbial barrel.

Others go into the app with hope and then abandon hope and take sex as their consolation prize when dates don’t materialize. Let’s not kid ourselves, though…they don’t abandon hope so much as they do their values. Every time they give it up for a stranger, you know in the back of their heart is a timid voice singing Maybe This Time.

Newsflash: Probably not. Maybe next time, though…

Sometimes I have to remind myself what my goal was when I wrote my first book – No One Of Consequence.

Money.

I mean…empowering a reader. It was important to me for a couple of reasons.

First: Gays used to be fabulous. Now, we’re frivolous. A friend posted this on my Facebook timeline this morning.

I love this friend. She’s funny and bold and generous and caring and she’s a survivor.

In this case, she was also wrong. But thirty or even twenty years ago, she would have been right.

But then AIDS decimated gay culture. What we managed to cobble together to replace it wasn’t better, it just wasn’t nothing. Speaking of trajectories…it wasn’t as bad as it could have been, but it still wasn’t actually good.

So, yeah, my book took on the challenge of showing gays reaching back to elevate newer generations of gay men and help make them into citizens we can be proud of. It’s an example of what we should do for one another as people – not just as a gay subculture.

Second, I spent a lot of time being angry about Stupid Americans. We became so insular. Not just as a country, but as individuals.

Our protective bubbles became insecurity condoms: skin tight and hopefully impervious to anything that might harm us – but hopefully still allowing us to feel good in the <ahem> end.

When I gave up – as I was just on the verge of accepting my relegation to a post relevance existence – something actually happened. This story became a higher purpose in and of itself. I could use this story as a platform to show examples of how to be an individual without that individuality coming at a cost to another or to society as a whole.

After yesterday, realizing the true arc of my grumpiness, from frustrated, powerless observer to an observer who funneled that negative emotion into something…I’m left feeling grateful.

That I could contribute something to this and future generations and loosely call it art.

That a few people actually read what I have created.

Shameless plug: I’m still accepting new readers, generous reviews and shares across social media to expand upon that reach!

And that I may have channeled my frustration into what I hope is also a change in my own behaviors so that I can be a better passive example to others.

Maybe someday we’ll be at a level where I could respond to my text message from yesterday with a message like

I think the words you were looking for were “there’s” and “ethically”.

…without ending up blocked or the recipient’s default being to take that statement as offensive.

As I learned yesterday, though, those friggin’ emotional condoms that we never seem to take off work. When I left the guy yesterday, I got the distinct impression I’d never see him again. So now I’ve got to figure out whether the Universe has simply given me what I wanted all along – to not be dating a 20-year old – or if I’m supposed to continue to gently urge the guy toward an emotionally bareback* existence that he understands is safe and nurturing and not hostile.

*Just in case it needed clarification, “bareback” is a slang term for sex without a condom.

Well, That Was A Surprise

I’m In Literacy Hell

I’m aware on a daily basis that education has taken a nosedive in America.

And not “education” strictly in the school system manner. I know there are issues there, certainly. What I’m referring to is the responsibility of the individual to refresh their knowledge to ensure their intelligence continues to grow as they make their way in the world, lest we end up becoming Stupider Americans…

My daily reminders are things like the there/their/they’re and your/you’re headaches.

But today…today has been extra.

It started with a friend’s Facebook status:

I don’t run away when theirs a challenge.

Fine.

Pretty run of the mill.

Well, I mean, it’s kind of a double-whammy. He missed the contraction in his misuse of there’s.

But then this guy I’ve been chatting with sends me a text about a conflict he’s having with his boss:

I don’t think there’s a way I could ethnically do that.

Jesus fucking Christ.

Obviously, I can’t see him any longer…

I’m In Literacy Hell

Awkward Things I Did This Week

Ok, how this isn’t an ongoing theme for my blog…I just don’t know.

Maybe I should try making #ATIDTW a thing.

I realized after my walk this morning – doing prep for a larger entry tomorrow – that I was wearing mismatched socks. No biggie…it’s just a Saturday morning walkabout.

It was the second time this week. No, they weren’t the opposites of the other mismatched set. Yes, last time was a workday.

I guess I should be more careful about golfing laundry in dim lighting.

Or around wine.

I barely avoided sending a snarky email to the owner of the company I am consulting for the other day. I realized I had somehow chosen to “reply all” as I was proofreading it – I’ll explain what that means later, Silver Fox – and decided it was safer to just tell her in person.

In a small victory over my own awkwardness, I fell into my chair at work without spilling my coffee. I was attempting to sip coffee, hip-check my chair so it spun so that I could sit down and turn around all at the same time. My foot landed on one of the casters, sending me off balance as I turned and my chair skittering in the opposite direction from my vector.

I fell backward.

Somehow, I hit the chair.

Arms flailing.

Coffee sloshing but not spilling.

Thank gawd I was alone in the office, but I still looked to make sure not even the Chief Feline Officer was present to witness my derp.

No, neither of those three things – socks, reply all or near fall – happened on the same day.

I am only in the office three days a week, so I’m batting 1000 in the awkward department for this week.

I had a date this week. Someone I met online and decided to throw $20 at to see if he was as good in person as he was online.

He was!

A cute construction worker type. Maybe 5’8″, so right there in my shorty sweet spot.

And while he was an engaging conversationalist, he was also a good listener. Letting me prattle on about me-things while he listened attentively and encouraged me with relevant follow up questions instead of scrambling to get the conversation back to himself.

Turns out…he was 20!

Is. Fine.

Goddamnit!

While he was trying to sell me on the fact that he was almost 21, I was asking him if he voted in the last election.

“Nope. I wasn’t old enough, silly! But I’m voting in 2020, for sure!”

“Nono. In the midterms!”

Blank stare.

At least I came away from the encounter with something more upsetting to me than his age.

And to cap off my week in derp, I stopped on my walkabout this morning for a coffee. It was my backup coffee shop because it was geographically desirable, plus my primary shop opens at 9 on Saturdays and it was only 8-ish.

I haven’t been in in about a month because my Barista Boyfriend has a girlfriend now. Or at least he did last time I was there at the beginning of November. We were the only two people sitting on the mezzanine and he stopped by to kiss her.

No kiss for me, though. But fresh off a really good kiss (goddamnit!) from The Toddler yesterday, I figured there’s worse things than being fake betrayed by fake boyfriends.

“Oh my god! It’s been so long!” – Female Barista, Boyfriend Barista was looking on, smiling from behind his La Marzocco.

“Coma.” – Me

“You look all flush! How are you feeling now?” – FB

“I think it’s just walking in the cold. Or maybe my scarf is too tight! I miss Elvis, though.”

“That was a long coma…”

We went on to chat a bit more, then finally convincing me that I needed a hot coffee if I was going back out. Might as well be a peppermint mocha, too if it’s the only hot coffee of the season.

Winning argument.

I also found myself without my reusable bamboo straw, this being a spontaneous event. FB convinced me to get one of the metal straws, since it had a silicone tip and she could chew on it.

“Well, you can chew on the bamboo straws if you really want to.”

“P’shaw…I’m not a panda!”

“Whatever you say, Ping Ping.” – Me, in perfect deadpan.

That was the awkward, by the way….

“Well, I may be Chinese, but I’ll leave the bamboo chewing to the pros. I’ll still answer to Ping Ping, though, but only for you!” She gives her coworker a little side eye warning.

She was laughing, as was Boyfriend Barista and I thought Ping Ping could stick. Still, there I was…totally feeling like a latent racist for bringing panda names into the conversation with someone who turned out to be of Chinese heritage.

It registers on some level with me when someone is a POC. But that level is the same level as hair color.

Still, when race comes up, so does my guilt. Honestly, I couldn’t profile an Asian person’s race if there was a million bucks riding on it. For a cool mil, I might make a guess. Otherwise, I just don’t care.

One of my best friends is Philippino. Something I only remember because she nicknamed herself Filipina Fox. The Silver Fox’s daughter in law is Asian, but I have no idea what race. She’s from Las Vegas and Seattle, the end.

Anyway, with Ping Ping, I decided to ignore her race drop in and pivot. I segued to panda trivia.

“Did you know that it costs $10 million a year for China to loan out pandas? That’s per panda.”

“No! Really?”

“Yup. Key word: loan.”

“Goddamn. That’s quite a racket!”

“And any pandas born while they are on loan belong to China, not the host country! No anchor pandas allowed!”

The discussion went on from there, but I never got to impress them with the full extent of my panda trivia because people came in.

I’d bought my cool reusable straw –

– but I did manage an aside to my two-timing Barista Boyfriend as he topped off his latte art with a few dollops of chocolate whipped cream.

“Hey, if anyone asks for a loaner straw for their drink, charge them $10. Per drink, no free use on refills!”

“Right? Why should China have all the fun?!?”

I don’t think these things only happen to me. I do kinda think that it’s possible no one embraces their awkward with as much vigor as I do, though…

Awkward Things I Did This Week

Post

I’ve had this notion in draft mode for about 9 months now, so I suppose it’s about time I pushed this baby out.

Nine months ago, I flippantly said to a friend,

I’m not doing that. I’m post-that.

I think it was the Silver Fox and I think he was suggesting we go to the gym…specifically so he could get into hiking shape for his then upcoming six-week shuffling through Europe trip.

Post-that.

It was a time in my life where I’d been scratching at the professional employment door for the better part of a year like an unwelcome cat.

I was mentally preparing myself for an upcoming summer of gorgeous PNW weather…and dreading the main outdoor physical activity available to me being cycling.

I thought about it for a bit and wondered what my motivation really was.

This old Groucho Marx quote:

I don’t want to be a member of any club that would have me as a member

It kept popping up in my mind and casually in conversation. It got to the point where I had to acknowledge it; aka: obsessively think about it.

Admittedly, I didn’t come up with the answer. I think ruminations like this evolve over time. What is important to get to – for me – was the core value that was anxiously raising its hand to say something just outside my figurative peripheral vision.

I’d been applying for jobs I wanted with companies I wanted to work for and maybe getting interviews, maybe not, definitely not getting hired.

When that didn’t work, I changed my focus and broadened my search to jobs with companies I didn’t necessarily want to work with, but knew I could meet the job expectations. Surprisingly, I got the same results. More surprisingly, I was offended at being rejected by companies I held in low regard.

It all reminded me of how true my dating/interviewing analogy has always been. The way you (should) put your best foot forward in either situation, learn about the “opportunity” and then mutually decide whether it’s a good match. Ideally, both parties reach the same decision.

<pause to glare at millennials>

Moving on.

But where do I move on to from there? That scenario – thanks to my own analogy – encompasses dating, too. There I was, kind of at the massive intersection of Work, Romance & Fitness Boulevards and I didn’t want to cross any of them.

Fortunately, I didn’t want to jump into traffic, either. I think that’s a good sign.

I really couldn’t tell if I was broken or protesting. It’s probably worth noting that this overlapped with my nine month haircut hiatus. My mother had gone from niggling at me to get a haircut to being envious of my natural hair flip to quietly telling me that my dad would like to see me get a haircut.

That last one kind of got to me and I started mentally preparing myself to face a haircut. It also got me thinking that maybe what motivated me to work was making my parents proud.

I kicked that one around for a bit.

Then I remembered that my parent’s pride in me seems innate, not earned. It was a realization that made me feel truly fortunate.

I’d written a book that literally dozens of people read.

My parents were proud of me.

I’d taken any job I could get – perhaps the only – just to get off my couch and do something.

My parents? Still proud.

So working professionally to please my parents wasn’t the answer.

Maybe I was asking the wrong figurative question, then?

I wandered back to dating. And quickly ran away from that notion. I’d have to be pretty self-loathing to expose myself to that group of people for answers. Because the answer to the collective question – What are you looking for? – for folks in the dating pool is not

Y’know, an old, out of shape dude who’s adrift and underemployed. Yeah, that’d be nice.

But what I did remember was my dating bar. I expected people I dated to enhance my happiness.

Not make me happy.

Certainly not erode my happiness.

That got me thinking that I should absolutely apply that same bar to my work life.

Then I remembered that I had and quit my last job because it was absolutely eroding my happiness.

And just like a shit boyfriend, behaved the same way when I pointed it out.

I had started this exercise where I’d admitted I didn’t know the answer. I was now at the point where I’d searched for an answer and not found one.

You know where that left me?

Fucking religion.

Can you believe that?

Who answers your prayers?

God?

I’d long ago put my faith in myself. Not god.

Then I’d spent a few decades letting people take it away from me.

Bosses.

Customers.

Boyfriends.

Maybe I should just reach out and take that faith back?

I mentioned earlier that I wrote a book that “no one” read.

Y’know what? That didn’t bug me.

I’d written a book!

That realization made me feel good.

Good about myself and that accomplishment that “few” achieve. Well, few people, but hundreds of monkeys – if you put them all in a room together with a typewriter.

But it also made me realize that there were people in my life urging me to do it for a decade.

Just a few.

Not even a gang.

They were never in the same room together and maybe only once crossed paths on the same Facebook thread.

But they were there.

Just like my parents.

Maybe the answer I was looking for was actually those few voices that spoke up but were drowned out by the constant droning white noise of everyone else.

I realized that those few voices were coming from the people I wanted to hear.

Needed to hear, honestly.

The sincere people in my life.

But I’d been conditioned to listen to the masses and their collective white noise voice.

That voice, however, was like the Great and All-Powerful Oz.

Big and loud, but behind it? Just a curtain hiding small, scared individuals.

I was over trying to get through to “them”, they didn’t listen, anyway. Without listening, there’s no conversation…just one-sided talk.

I decided I was over that.

Postthat.

Post screaming into a void and expecting an answer.

Job boards.

Dating apps.

Gyms with mirrors that reflected only negative extremes: what was perfect or what was imperfect.

Declaring myself post allowed me the luxury to do what I wanted for my own satisfaction, not to meet the expectations of an undefined group of faceless people.

To find my own satisfaction.

Hell, to first define satisfaction for myself and start there.

And in finding the faith in myself to set that bar, I felt empowered and optimistic…and it was sustained for the first time in years. But it makes me think that stripping it down to that level will allow me to arrive at a place where the definition I have for happiness overall is stronger than any I’ve had before. I’m not standing there asking some company or stranger-I’m-fucking-and-calling-it-dating for a sign off on my happiness.

I’m doing my own happiness; specifically giving my time to activities and people that enhance my work-in-progress happiness.

And you know what?

Now I want to do the things that I was post-doing before.

So, that’s a pretty good place to end up.

PS: my favorite Groucho quote? Well, since you didn’t ask…

Go read a book!

Post

Why I’m Single #20

Oops, I did it again.

News Flash: I’m apparently needy…

While out having a little solo misadventure, I gently hit on a guy. I’d just seen a movie and stopped on the way home for a Pallet Jack at Kelly’s Olympian. Really, I was just being nice, offering him a drink.

He declined, but we made polite conversation as we sat a barstool apart.

I learned that he’d just moved here two months ago – you know how I love those fresh arrivals – from Arizona. I mentioned my parents are visiting there now, which made him chuckle. When I asked why, he told me that the jokes about snowbirds and basically old people in general are no joke.

He is still looking for a good fitting job. He’s in his second home since moving up here, the first place just wasn’t a good fit. His housemate at the new place is a much more comfortable fit, personality-wise.

Anyway, he finished his drink and left. Then he came back a few minutes later and handed me a note and quickly scampered off. It basically said that he wasn’t sure whether I had been flirting with him or not, the dangers of being me. Although we weren’t in a gay bar, so I get his caution. But the note had his number and told me to text him if I had been.

Because I still got a little game.

It was way better than that time I used a cheesy pick up line on a guy at The Cuff.

How does it feel to be the best looking guy in this dump?

It was a slow night. There was only six people there and the dance bar and patio weren’t even open. Usually, there were a lot more ugly people there.

Or the time I shamelessly hit on a friend of D-Slice at one of her Free Drink Friday gatherings. I mean, that’s just bad form…hitting on your friend’s friends.

Isn’t it?

But we were talking and he had the most beautiful smile. Absolutely radiant!

It was quite beyond my control.

Even worse is the time I’m cruising down the street with my top down and see a good looking guy getting into a car, honk, yell “woo-hoo!” and it ends up actually being my neighbor.

See? That last one was just bad game altogether! But it was like 15 years ago or so.

So what’s the big deal? What did I do again? Why am I needy?

(At least what am I needy about now?)

The first three guys were all FTM trans folk. That last example was my lesbian neighbor.

I’m sure I’ve inadvertently made passes at even more trans people that went nowhere and they either never mentioned it or I never got to know them well enough to learn that information.

But what I know about myself is that I want the heart I desire to be attached to the plumbing I recreationally enjoy.

Hopefully all that says about me is that I’m simply not the Kinsey Six everyone would imagine me to be…worst-case, I’m just a Five. If it makes me out to appear transphobic, well, I would hope it doesn’t.

But, am I? Are genitals shallow to the degree of being superficial in love? Am I misdefining what I’m looking for in my love life and conflagrating (Made Up Word Alert!) it with a sex life?

Either way, I’m striking out.

But at least my pick up game has gotten smoother as we’ve traveled forward in time.

Why I’m Single #20

The Haircut Saga

If you can even begin to understand what it’s like to be me for just the shortest of moments, it won’t surprise you to hear that in November I left my barbershop thinking,

That’s it, I’m never coming back!

It was the second time since I considered recreationally growing my hair longer that I’ve walked into Bishop’s in the Pearl with the intent of getting cleaned up around the edges and walk out with a haircut that was basically ready for junior high school picture day.
My goal in my mission to recreationally grow out my hair – into what I call crazy old man hair – was something like a low key version of this:img_3453
What I really meant by stating my goal to grow out my hair was just to openly defy the current hair style conventions of that ridiculous hard part haircut. You know, this one…img_0516
Hard part? More like hard pass!
And I’ve had the same haircut, essentially, for the last 10-15 years, so something of a change was in order…just not what I considered to be the current incarnation of The Big Gay Haircut. Going longer was my only safe bet.
Except…
Not so fast, old Xtopher.
In late September, I walked into Bishop’s, told my gal what I wanted and walked out with this:
img_3454
Fine.
I grow it out a little, about seven weeks, and then go back toward the end of November for my holiday haircut in late November. Gotta make myself respectable for my visit to mom and dad! I make myself very clear that I only want it cleaned up over the ears, not blended all the way up since I want to grow it longer.
“Got it”, she says.

Flash forward twenty minutes…
img_3454

That’s it, I’m never coming back!

I leave thinking that I’ll give it until the end of January. Maybe if I need to cave for something important – like an interview – I will, but otherwise, it’s not like I’m doing anything with my time…so this can be my lil hobby.
Toward the end of January – my birthday – I ask the Silver Fox if I should be thinking about getting a haircut. I hadn’t heard from my family about birthday plans, so I was beginning to suspect something. If my family is planning something, I figure I should mow the shag a bit to look presentable.
“Your family isn’t planning anything”, he says.
Fine. No worries.
“But I’d get a haircut if I were you!” he laughs.
Of course, I reasonably assume that he’s taking a chance to return some of my snark and take it in stride.
He wasn’t.
img_1108
Great. Now he can keep a secret.
Not to worry, I think I pulled the shaggy look off…
img_1342
Notice how the longer hair distracts from my growing girth?
Anyway…lesson learned. I had said I was giving it until the end of January and here it was, the 21st. I figured I could see this through the final ten days and then hit Bishop’s and see if they’ve learned any new listening skills.
The Fox and I head up to Trader Joe’s later that week – he usually lets me tag along so that I don’t have to hoof it 20 blocks with my groceries – read: a half case of wine – which I certainly appreciate. On our way back, we pass right by Bishop’s and I’m looking in and thinking that it figures they aren’t crowded now, but just watch…when I want my hair cut it’ll be like the week before picture week. Then I see it.
Oops. Him.
This guy that I used to…socialize with, privately, if you get my drift, when I first moved back to Portland. He was a complete and utter mess. I’d cut ties with him by the end of that first year back in town.
Of course, the next year, he turns up at a happy hour with Linda Belcher. She had invited me down to Old Town to grab a couple drinks with her common-law husband, Bob’s Burgers, and some of his acupuncture co-horts.
This guy shows up. Mostly because this is my life and this is just what one should expect when one is me. Also because he was engaged to a classmate of Bob’s Burgers.
F.
M.
L.
I learn that he’s in the Hair Program at Paul Mitchell over across Burnside. I’m actually surprised that I don’t see him more often, since I pass by there every time I go to the bank or movies…surprised, but grateful.
A year or so later, I do finally end up seeing him outside. “Long program”, I think to myself, but I’m on the far side of the street, so he doesn’t see me.
Maybe another year later, I see him again and wonder if he’s teaching there, but just assume they are smart enough to not let that happen.
So, here I am, less than ten days away from a haircut and I see him on a smoke break outside. Finally working after taking the better part of three years to graduate from what I gather is a seven or eight month program. My friend, JOrtis is a teacher at the Aveda institute and I just figured, why not ask how long the program should take. I think he said months…but knowing this mess, I could see him spacing out a seven or eight week program with a few trips to rehab.
Nonetheless, it explains something about my last two trips into Bishop’s for a haircut.
Turns out my petulant departure in November contained some pretty true words.
So, here it is, the first week of February and I’m thinking, “Well, it’s not like I’m still not doing anything…oh, wait”, but I’m still not really putting any emphasis on my hair maintenance.
The Fox says that he’s getting used to it, which I somehow gamely twist into a compliment.
And…since this is my life we’re talking about, I get an in person interview.

Screw it. This interview process started in November. If they ask, I’ll tell them that I am not getting a haircut until they offer me a job out of protest.

So, if The Great Job Hunt finally comes through and I get the job, I’ll trim this shituation up, otherwise, this is what they get. Until then…img_3453

Whatever I decide to do with this shaggy mane, the…let’s say lucky barber will have plenty of material to work with!

The Haircut Saga

Gods And Monsters

The May/December dynamic is hardly unique to gay culture.

<looking at you Catherine ZJ and Michael D>

Star Trek even gave it a glance in The Next Generation as Wesley whored his way through his teens and most of the male crew memb…wait, that didn’t happen on the show.

I got confused…I’m old.

No, it was in the episode The Best of Both Worlds when Admiral Hanson brings his protege, Commander Shelby, aboard on the way to investigate a missing colony.

Captain Picard witnesses the dynamic between the elder officer and his female subordinate. To their credit, the writers not only created a strong female character in Shelby that didn’t define herself by a relationship, they also made the Admiral self-aware enough to give an honest assessment of his situation when asked by Picard.

Just an old man’s fantasy.

Boy. Little did I know then…but as this will end up being my birthday post, what better time to dust off this three month old notion?

Back around the beginning of November, I caught an old art house flick I’d seen in 1998. Literally, in an art house movie theater. Gay cinema was still struggling somewhere between taboo and mainstream.

The movie? Gods and Monsters.

Somehow, they managed to corral a stellar cast to tell the story of the last days of golden era director James Whale – played by Ian McKellan. He created the Frankenstein movie and the sequel, Bride of Frankenstein while living as a closeted homosexual.

Whale’s housekeeper – Lynn Redgrave – hires a new yardman – Brendan Fraser – that catches Whale’s fancy, despite the gardener’s obvious heterosexual nature. The film explores that relationship, pretty baldly, too. There were moments viewing it at 30 that made me cringe as a young man who had suffered overt advances from older men. The film did not shy away from those clumsy, vague advances viewed through the 1930s mindset of an older man with a modestly lascivious gleam in his eye.

It was hard to watch then, providing a certain ew factor based on my experiences. It was still hard to watch now that the movie is of legal drinking age.

Obviously, I’m not one to judge an older/younger romance. But it was hard to watch from a couch that is fortunately situated in a much more tolerant era.

My gaydar is fairly well tuned. That, paired with gay men feeling comfortable enough to express themselves freely without policing either their naturally fey tendencies, flamboyant behaviors or even their wardrobes, makes it a fairly comfortable environment for me to appreciate men I find attractive without fear for my physical well-being. Those same factors have made straight men much more secure in their own sexuality, largely reducing their fear or discomfort when a gay man hits on them.

Not eliminating the fear, entirely, sadly…but there’s a topic for another time.

But this isn’t about old Hollywood pool parties or an analysis of why older men chase younger men.

Their lost youth, duh.

It’s about the lasting impacts of those inter generational gay/straight friendships.

I might even say it’s more about how people come into your lives for a reason.

Sure, James Whale might have thought his yard man, Clay, came into his life simply as a distraction from his failing health at first. Or, you know…to cut his grass. But as their relationship evolved, Fraser’s gardener provided more than “just an old man’s fantasy”. Ultimately, he inspired McKellan’s Whale – don’t make that dirty, Diezel – to live during his final weeks of life. Of course, Whale then tried to manipulate him into killing him in a “gay panic”. But at the end of the movie, maybe a decade after Whales’ death, we see the lasting fingerprint Whale left on his yardman as he watches one of Whales’ movies with his own son.

Clay – the gardener’s name – learned some tolerance and empathy from his exposure to someone different than himself. Not just any old man, either.

A gay, old man.

I think that double-whammy of diversity was too hard to sweep aside and it made Clay pay attention to Whale versus just looking through him. Even if he wasn’t immediately aware of what was happening in the moment. Later, it made him a better father and a better steward of future generations.

Noticing that the second time I watched the movie made me appreciate what we take away from the people who cross our paths.

<Cue up some John Lennon music…>

We can all use a little more awareness and empathy in our day to day encounters – random or not. Imagine a world, a country, a state, city or block where we could see that awareness and empathy in action.

It’s a not infrequent theme in my blog, human decency. Random kindnesses. Living with intention.

Holding doors for one another.

Making eye contact with people on the street, saying “hi” as you pass.

Little things.

I do them, even though I’m a self-professed grumpopatomus. Think of how unbearably chipper I’d be if someone thanked me for holding a door or smiled or just said “hi” back.

That’s a world I can imagine. I’d just rather see it.

And so, while I sometimes feel like a dirty, old man when a younger guy catches my eye, my motivation is nothing, at worst. At best, it’s to consciously leave them better than I found them. Whale’s presence in Clay’s life may have had unintentional benefits; I’d prefer mine are more direct impacts.

I think with American culture in general, each of us being aware of the legacy we leave younger generations with would be a positive for the future. But I think gay culture in particular would benefit from not being blind to what other generations have to offer our own, and vice versa.

Gay culture lacks a generational continuity. A handoff of knowledge and norms from one generation to the next. AIDS…whaddyagunnado? But instead of walking away from that cultural canyon, we should work toward filling it in to create a cultural continuity.

I was reminded of this the other day when I watched The Assassination of Gianni Versace. There’s gay guys that can legally drink that don’t know the shock and horror of that random crime any more than they know the fear of living your true life in the open.

All these people, with no idea of the cultural importance of Versace’s work or the significance of a gay hustler executing an older, wealthy gay man.

The sad thing is that they blithely post about “living their best life” on social media with an insipid or ironic – god, I hope it’s ironic – pic of some frivolous thing like a venti gourmet coffee or expensive pair of shoes.

The irony to that “best life” is that many more young men enter into exploitative situations with older men to finance those “best lives”…strictly in a tit-for-tat (or cash-for-ass) basis. Sometimes that transaction is strictly through social media, but more and more men are turning to escorting to finance their best life. Bragging as they do that one sugar daddy isn’t enough.

Those who do not learn from their mistakes are doomed to repeat them, right?

I guess, culturally, that means we’ve got a bunch of little Cunanans – thankfully only in the escort way, not the spree killer way – running around without even knowing it. Ryan Murphy to the rescue…

But that’s the type of culturally defining story that we lose not just with a missing generation, but also because of the accepted reality of generational isolation. It shouldn’t take a TV show to educate an entire culture across generations.

But it does, sadly.

I was talking with Sallory months and months ago about this phenomenon. We were talking about how valuable generational influence is, whether it’s friendship or romance based. The gist of the conversation – which started as a “What is wrong with younger people these days?!?” type of thing – was that so many kids come up with a lack of adult or parental influence. People work. I know. But the benefit of older/younger relationships is a better filling in of that gap.

As funny as it sounds, it really does benefit younger generations to hear someone say, “When I was a kid…”

I’m definitely here to say that and I have people in my life that want to hear it. Friends and when I’m lucky, lovers.

Of course, in my case, the movie would be made as Cads And Monsters – given that old gay men are not gods. But the lost boys I let distract me are still certainly lil monsters in their own right. But hopefully having an older friend or boyfriend helps tame them.

Gods And Monsters